Gardens, Gardening and Saving Seeds

I can't resist the pull of gardens. Any sort of garden. Walking around the neighborhood or driving through the countryside, my eye is always drawn to them. Even messy or ramshackle gardens are magical to me.

One of the things that I miss about living in the city is having botanical gardens, arboretums and public greenhouses nearby.

One day last week Matthias and I visited two public gardens that are near one another... about a two and a half hour drive to the farther of the two.

Rotary Botanical Gardens is located in Janesville, Wisconsin (which, nerd that I am always makes me want to sing "The Hero of Canton"). It's very beautiful, with a variety of different areas, including one called The Smelly Garden.

public gardens, gardens, Rotary Botanical Garden, Janesville, Wisconsin

How could I resist a garden dedicated to smell (and with such a fun name!)? I had to touch and sniff just about everything, even getting down on my knees (while wearing a dress) to do so.

The formal herb and Italian gardens (which were beside the koi pond... something else I can never resist) were probably my other favorite areas.

public gardens, gardens, Rotary Botanical Garden, Janesville, Wisconsin

I'm not very fond of boxwood (too smelly), but it was really lovely.

The rose garden was a bit of a disappointment (not smelly enough). It was planted with Knockout roses and other easy-care landscaping varieties, but I did spy a sweet toad hopping across one of the paths which made up for the lack of interesting roses.

The rose garden in Madison's Olbrich Botanical Gardens was more to my liking.

public gardens, Madision, Wisconsin, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, rose garden

I especially liked the fact that it was created with a mixture of plants. It was not easy to stick my nose into many of the flowers (though in a few cases I maneuvered myself so that I could reach them), but the air was perfumed with the fragrance of roses.

My other favorite spot in Madison's gardens was the herb garden. One bed was created with all sorts of basils (and a couple bay trees).

herb garden, basil, botanical gardens, public gardens, Madison, Wisconsin

There's so much more to see at both gardens. I look forward to visiting again sometime.

Another place we recently visited and somewhere that I hope to go back to is the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm.

Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa, gardens, farms

It's located in Decorah, Iowa, about an hour and a half away from where we live. There are display gardens as well as a farmyard with heritage breeds of livestock, orchards and hiking trails. The visitor's center includes a retail shop where you can buy their seeds. I bought some nasturtium and cucumber seeds and made a plan to go earlier in the spring next year.

Their mission is such a good one. Seed libraries, seed exchanges and the like are a wonderful concept. It's economical, good for the environment and it's fun.  The Little Free Library outside the visitor center made me so happy.

Seed Savers Exchange, Little Free Library, Decorah, Iowa,

The box on top of the library is for exchanging seeds as well as recipes and stories about the seeds. Totally awesome.

Interested in saving your own seeds? For many plant varieties it's very easy (some even sow themselves). Here's a good place to start for information on saving seeds.

Seed Savers Exchange sells seeds online, but if you're interested in finding a seed library near you there's a great directory here.

Visiting such places always fills me with ideas for my own garden. I'm constantly making a mental list of plants I want to add and considering different ways I can incorporate things I see. I've come to realize that my favorite types of gardens are those that mix vegetables, herbs and flowers. I also prefer my gardens to have many different colors, shapes, textures and scents.

My own garden is a constant source of joy. A place of contentment and peace.

borage, borage flowers, blue flowers, herbs, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Of inspiration and regeneration

gardening, gardens, flowers, anemones, petunias, verbena, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

and often lunch and dinner.

garden, peas, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It's always beautiful to me, flaws and all. Even the simplest plants make me happy.

bachelor buttons, garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What are your favorite sorts of gardens? Do you live near any public gardens? If you're a gardener do you save seeds or exchange them with friends?


  1. Your days out to visit gardens look wonderful Anne. My kind of gardening has evolved over the years and now I like to grow mainly perennials and plants that look after themselves! I have what you could call a 'naturalistic garden'. I am not too keen on showy gardens full of bedding plants. I also like to grow herbs and encourage wildlife into the garden. I love it when I discover a new insect on a leaf! I do save seeds from time to time and would happily send you some but don't know if they would pass through customs. One of my favourite plants in the garden right now is Aquilegia (granny's bonnet) - wonderful for self seeding too. :-)

    1. Thanks, Simone. It's interesting how our gardening styles evolve. In my old garden I had so many more perennials and lots of roses. Here I mostly have annuals grown from seed. I love having wildlife in my garden, too. I spied a toad a few weeks ago who had the perfect hiding spot beneath the fence. And of course, birds and butterflies. So nice to have them around.

      I think you're right about the seeds and customs.

  2. Oh, I feel like I just took a vacation! Thanks for sharing your favorite botanic spaces with us. I'm going to schedule a trip to the Denver Botanic gardens right away :)

    1. Thanks so much, Sharon. I hope you do get to the Denver Botanic gardens and maybe share some photos! :)

  3. Hi,
    This was so fun Anne, thank you!
    Duluth, MN has some amazing gardens. I love strolling along in all of them and they all are different. We plan to visit Duluth in September, it will be fun to see the late summer flowers.

    1. Thanks, Carla! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

      I hope you'll take lots of photos when you visit the gardens in Duluth!


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